- Museum number
- Object: Kazi in Noman's Land
Installation comprising stacks of 3 different stamps from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India each showing Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) plus a set of horizontal images and a set of accompanying texts.
- Production date
Length: 45 millimetres (Bangladesh stamp)
Width: 38 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (1) Mary Ginsberg, Propaganda Exhibition Catalogue
Naeem Mohaiemen, Kazi in Noman’s Land, 2008
This work by Naeem Mohaiemen –visual artist, journalist, filmmaker- explores the Partition of India and the co-opting of a cultural and political hero by three nations for their own purposes.
Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) is celebrated today as the national poet of Bangladesh, but he has also been claimed at different times by both India and Pakistan. Born to a Muslim family in India (in the Indian state of West Bengal), he served in the British Indian Army where his political ideas were forged. He became an inspiring leader of the Indian IIndependence movements, his poetry of revolution frequently landing him in trouble. His best-known poem Bidrohi (The Rebel), published in 1922, profoundly changed Bengali literature.
From 1942, Kazi Nazrul Islam suffered from a degenerative illness, which worsened until he was practically unable to move with out help. Kazi strongly opposed Partition and stayed in India after Independence was attained in 1947. His decision was trumpeted at the time as an example of Muslims finding a home in the new nation. In 1989 the government of India issued a commemorative stamp.
Pakistan also claimed Kazi Nazrul Islam, as a Muslim counterpoint to the dominance of the Hindu literary giant, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Of the 328 stamps issued by Pakistan between Independence and the formal establishment of Bangladesh in 1971, only one honoured a Bengali figure: Kazi Nazrul Islam, in 1968.
The new sovereign nation of Bangladesh then claimed Kazi Nazrul Islam as their cultural icon, celebrating him with stamps, international conferences and other commemorations.
(2) The artist, of Bangladeshi origin but now living and working in the US, is interested in the resistance movements in south Asia.
(3) Ifthikar Dadi, 'Lines of Control', Princeton University Press, 2012:
Naeem Mohaieman’s project situates the paradox of the poet’s life within the context of south Asian nationalisms. Kazi Nazrul Islam is possibly the only person recognised with such an honour by the 3 states of south Asia.
The poet assailed the British Raj and preached revolution through his poetic works, such as 'The Rebel' and 'The Song of Destructio'n as well as his publication "Dhumketu" ("The Comet"). His impassioned activism in the Indian independence movement often led to his imprisonment by British authorities.
Nazrul’s work involved a deep humanism that drew on both Hindu and Muslim devotional traditions of 19th and 20th C Bengal – though he remained critical of sectarian religiosity on both sides.
Struck ill from 1942 until the end of his life, Nazrul Islam was trapped within his body, paralysed, but apparently compis mentis. This powerful, involuntary silence made a cover for the three competing nation statesto each make a claim on his legacy: India celebrated his secular humanism; Pakistan recognised him as a ‘Muslim’ poet partially as an attempt to displace the ‘Hindu poet’ Tagore from East Pakistani sensibilities; and, after 1971, Bangladesh honoured him as their national poet.
- On display (G33/dc69b/s3)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number